Shades of Gray
by Annette McCleave on April 14th, 2009

S.J. Day’s resume includes a variety of odd jobs ranging from amusement park employee to POW interrogator. She’s presently a full-time writer. A native Southern Californian, S.J. thinks there’s no place like home, but she loves to travel. Her adventures have taken her to Japan, Holland, Germany, France, Mexico, Jamaica, and all over the United States. Next week, they take her to the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Orlando, Florida, where she’s looking forward to meeting readers and writers alike. Or you can meet her from the comfort of your home over at her website:

S.J.’s alter ego, Sylvia Day, is well known for her evocative and highly sensual historical romances. The world S.J. has created in her new urban fantasy series, Marked, is certainly evocative. And exciting. And gripping. She’s built a world where demons and angels and all sorts of interesting creatures take hold of your imagination and never let go. She’s here today to dish the goods on her two hot heroes, those infamous brothers, Cain and Abel.

S.J. kindly gave away an ARC of Eve of Darkness to our Silk and Shadow Dwellers in February and she’s offering one lucky commenter an ARC of Eve of Destruction today. Be sure to comment for your chance to win!


sjdayIt’s a widely held rule of thumb that one should avoid discussing politics and religion in mixed company. Such topics are so divisive that it’s difficult to bring them up without sparking heated debate. That being said, it’s hard for me to avoid the topic of religion while talking about the heroes of my Marked series — Cain and Abel. However, since my guys are fictional–of course–we’ll just look at them that way. :wink:

One of the biggest questions I’m asked is: what inspired you to write a series wrapped around the most infamous brothers in history? My answer isn’t very helpful I’m afraid. I was in the shower (where many of my ideas are born) and Eve’s story popped into my head fully formed. I knew her and her story, and I knew she was torn between Cain and Abel. Honestly, I just *knew* it. Dripping water and wrapped in a towel, I grabbed my laptop and typed out what was fresh in my mind before it escaped me forever.

But spontaneous premise aside, I’ve always been fascinated with the tale of Cain and Abel. I’m not the first to think, “There’s more to that story.” There are other, non-canonized texts that didn’t make it into the Bible we’re familiar with. The First and Second Books of Adam and Eve and the Book of Jubilees all delve a bit more into the story than Genesis, but there are still a lot of mysteries that we can’t yet know the answers to.

So, I took creative license: I gave Cain the benefit of the doubt. There are two sides to every story, I always say. I blended the white that is Abel and the black that is Cain to make two gray men. Neither is perfect and neither is evil. They have more in common than not, as most siblings do, and they happen to fall in love with the same woman.

Marked Series

While the advance reading copies of the first two books have been circulating, I’ve found it interesting (and delightful) that readers clearly like one brother over the other. So far, it’s Cain who’s won the most hearts. As a writer, there’s a joy in knowing that with the right spotlight on a character, even an infamous murderer can become a beloved hero. I wish I could take credit for that, but really I’m just the narrator.

Do I have a favorite brother? No. I’m hoping that more readers will come to see Abel as a worthy challenger for my heroine’s attentions. Maybe, because I’m inclined to root for underdogs. Maybe, because they’re equally yummy in my eyes.

How about you? Do you have a favorite story where you rooted for the “bad boy”? Have you ever read a story where you feel like the wrong guy got the girl?

29 comments to “Shades of Gray”

  1. 1

    I’m one of those pain-in-the-arse contrary types :wink: Basically this means I tend to prefer secondary characters over primary characters, and antagonists over protagonists. Like Stefan in Anya Bast’s Elemental Witches series - he’s evil, but he’s my favourite :cool:

    The problem with liking secondary characters is that sometimes the author decides to give them their own book, and make them primary characters. And they change, but become less appealing. eg Jaxon Tremain in Gena Showalter’s Awaken Me Darkly was great. But when he starred in Savor Me Slowly…totally didn’t work for me.

    As for Abel and Cain…in Eve of Darkness, I think I skewed toward Cain. Will Eve of Destruction change my mind? I’ll need that free copy to find out :wink:

  2. 2

    Have you ever read a story where you feel like the wrong guy got the girl?

    I totally felt that way at the end of Megan Hart’s “Tempted“. While the wife chose her husband over his friend (and her lover), which was the right thing for her character to do, I really wanted her to end up with the other man. It made the ending bittersweet for me. Still loved the book though, and she is fast becoming one of my fav authors, after you of course,Sylvia :grin:

  3. 3

    I haven’t run across a book YET where I felt the wrong guy got the girl. I’m not sure how I would feel about that happening.

    I am really looking forward to this series though. You’ve had it out there promotion wise for a while and it worked on me. I want to read them all and can’t wait.

  4. 4

    Well, I don’t know if this counts as rooting for the bad boy, but I after Angel returned to his ‘normal’ self after that stint as Angelus, I felt ripped off. I wanted a little more of his bad side to stay with him.

    Remember him in Season 1? When he was the dark, dangerous and mysterious guy? The writers fleshed out his character more in later seasons, but I think they smoothed too many rough edges off his personality.

  5. 5

    While I don’t specifically remember a story where I felt that the wrong couple ended up together, I have felt a few times that the character (sometimes the hero, sometimes the heroine) could use a swift kick in the b*tt. There’s nothing more disappointing than a hero that continuously broods over his past. Like what they did to poor Batman in the earlier movies. I get that the character needs a reason to be broody, but it can be over-played so easily, and then it just becomes annoying. Those are probably also the same stories where you might wish the heroine went off with the villain. :wink:

  6. 6

    I also root for the bad boys my example is Sawyer from Lost! Can’t think of any from a book but enjoy reading about them also.

  7. 7

    I do have to admit that I was happier with Eve being with Cain, but every book will likely cause me to change my mind at least once or twice. I can’t wait to read Destruction and Chaos!

    In Colleen Gleason’s Gardella Vampire Chronicles, the heroine has two main love interests (it’s more complicated than that, but you’ll have to read them to see) and in the second book I was surprised by her choice. Of course, now I’ve finished four of the books, I’m much happier with the new outcome. The fifth book is on its way to me and maybe it will change again. That’s why I love series books, because you get another chance to meet the characters, to learn more about them, to see the choices they’ve made.

  8. 8

    In your Cain and Able story, it just seems obvious to me (as the reader) that Cain is the right guy. While Eve is attracted to Able, Cain is THE ONE and has been THE ONE for 10 years.

    Is some situations, I fear the author is setting up 1/2 of her readers to be unhappy when and if the heroine chooses one guy over the other, such as Stephanie Plum’s love triangle with Ranger and Joe.

    With Charlene Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse books, Sookie has had three different love interest (Bill, Eric, and Quinn). Her readership is now split among all three guys as to which one Sookie should end up with. It’s surprising how strong some of the opinions are. (There are “Die Bill Die groups!)

    As a writer, the first book I started writing had a love triangle and I had already decided on the front end who would “get the girl.” Unfortunately, “the girl” had other ideas and feel for the wrong guy. How does that happen? I mean, I am writing this story…how can MY FICTION HEROINE disagree with me! LOL

  9. 9

    I don’t always root for the bad boy to get the girl, but they are almost always my favorite characters.

    The few occasions in which I have felt the wrong boy got the girl always include the girl not being in complete control of the situation. The best example is Mark and Faythe in Rachel Vincent’s Werecats series. I’ve only read through book two, so I don’t know what happens in Pride, but I was really rooting for Jace in the first book. I didn’t like Mark because he just kept bothering Faythe until she gave in (in my eyes).

    But in most stories I read, I like the boy that gets the girl.

  10. 10

    Every version of Beauty and the Beast where it takes Beauty for-evah to figure out that Beast is The One, I want to shake her. Like, duh. Didn’t she read fairy tales when she was a kid?

    Thanks for being with us today, S.J. I’m looking forward to reading your twist on this old story.

  11. 11

    Usually by the end of the book I feel like the right one won. But I have been known to change my mind in the middle of the book from the good guy to the supposed bad boy.

  12. 12

    I haven’t ran across any books where I’ve felt the wrong guy got the girl yet, and I surely hope it doesn’t happen, because then I’ll be so disappointed.

    I like the idea of Cain and Abel in these books :)

  13. 13

    I love heroes that are a bit dark and edgey, and tend to root for them to win the day over the perfect hero.

  14. 14

    I have to agree with booklover1335, in regards to Megan Hart’s ‘Tempted’… I thought the wrong guy got the girl there… even if he was her husband.
    It’s one my cousin loves, but I can’t reread.

  15. 15

    Welcome, S.J.! I haven’t read many triangle stories but the idea of Cain winning the girl reminds me of some of the historicals I read in the mid-90s where the heroes were not just dark, but so beat up and jaded as to seem irredeemable at the outset. One was Candle In The Dark by Megan Chance, where the hero - whose name happened to be Cain - was an alchoholic doctor who takes up with a prostitute who had just killed someone. Talk about a gritty, painful and painstaking journey toward redemption and love.

    BTW, Annette, I loved Angel in that first season, but I wanted Buffy to end up with Spike. He was definitely a Cain to Angel’s Able, but in my opinion more of a hero. After all, Spike stayed till the bitter end and he did it for love.

  16. 16

    Wow, it’s been a crazy morning over here! Sorry I’m late. :(

    booklover1335 - ((hugs))

    Brandy W - It has been awhile. I’m glad it worked for you (we authors never really know how well a particular campaign does or doesn’t do) and I appreciate you looking forward to the books! :)

    Annette - David as Angel is really close to my idea of Cain… :wink:

    Zita - LOL! I know exactly what you mean.

    Teresa W. - *whew* Sawyer is HAWT!

    Michelle - I haven’t yet had a chance to read Colleen’s books, but I’m planning on sitting down with all of them this Summer and reading them straight through. I can’t wait! I’ve heard such good things about the series.

    ArkansasCyndi - I know what you mean. My characters run roughshod over me all the time. They are so stubborn. I’ve had to learn to just go with the flow. They always know their own story better than I do. *g* (I’m a Morelli fan, BTW. :razz: )

    Sara M - I’ve read the second book in Rachel’s series. I must go back and read the first and see if I agree with you!

    Jessa - I sometimes wish I could tap a character on the shoulder and whisper some sense at them! *g*

    Donna S - I really enjoy books where the men are equally worthy and desirable. (Although I’m glad I’m not the one having to make the choice…) It’s that whole rooting for the underdog thing that kills me.

    Ashley - If you try them, I hope you like the execution, too! :)

    Cathy M - Dark and delicious. Very hard to resist.

    Ali - That’s tough. Kinda makes you want one of those “alternate ending” features you sometimes find on DVDs. :wink:

    Allison - I love heroes who have to be redeemed and healed. Hits me every time.

  17. 17

    I can’t remember the name of the book, but the “right guy” wasn’t introduced until about half way through the book. I kept thinking the first guy wasn’t for her. Then FINALLY the right (bad boy) came along!

  18. 18

    I agree with you about Shades of gray, Sylvia. I’ve been watching reruns of Charmed, the older series about the 3 witches where the demon Cole who is after their power of three ends up falling for Phoebe and then saving her, trying to do right and good eventually because of his love for her, even letting her finally go.

  19. 19

    Hey, Pam, I was really annoyed at the way they finally offed Cole in Charmed. He struggled so hard to be good, I felt he deserved better. Mind you, he got to skip to another show and become an oversexed plastic surgeon, so I guess it wasn’t all bad …

  20. 20

    I always root for the bad boy, and usually he’s the one with the girl :lol: I can honestly say I’ve never felt cheated when the story comes to a happy ending.

    I can’t wait to read your upcoming series. Eve and the boys(Cain & Abel) should be a entertaining tale :twisted:

  21. 21

    chey - If you remember the title, please let me know! I’d like to check it out. :)

    Pam P - OMG, I loved Cole. My love for that character is what got me over to Nip/Tuck and I’ve love Christian’s character, too. Julian seriously rocks.

    Sharon - LOL! I’d love to be the one who reforms Christian…

  22. 22

    Tez - Sorry! Your post was in moderation so I missed it earlier. I think some characters are destined to be supporting and nothing more.

    Gail - I’m glad you’re looking forward to the series! I hope you enjoy Eve. :)

  23. 23

    Yes, our sincere apologies–several comments, along with SJ’s first responses, got held up in our pending file. Not sure why, but they’re all fixed now.

  24. 24

    Welcome S. J.! I love love-triangle stories! It’s just fun to agonize who is going to end up with who.

  25. 25

    Eve of Darkness sounds great!

  26. 26

    I just wanted to drop by and say hi to S.J. it’s been a long day or I would have been by earlier.
    Just started reading Eve of Darkness - OMG. If I didn’t have a four hour drive tomorrow I would stay up reading it.
    As far as bad boys the only two that come to mind are Angel & Spike from Buffy The Vampire Slayer. In my opinion they brought out the best in Buffy, especially Spike.
    Well back to packing and then reading.

  27. 27

    I have rooted for the bad guy, many a times, but for some reason my brain will not produced a book from memory….

    Not a bad guy story, but I still think Dawson & Joey should’ve ended up together instead of Joey & Pacey on Dawson’s Creek. I know, old but it’s one of the first couples that popped in my addled mind tonight.

    I’m so anticipating the new series, sounds like a great reading!

  28. 28

    Hi SJ! As I love your historicals and others and too love Urban Fantasy, so been looking forward to these being out!

    I loved Brenda Joyce’s DEADLY series and I’ve been always torn between Cadler and Rick with Francesca choosing and the series never got the conclusion and I understand in some ways but I hate being hanged without a series ending. I can’t remember title now but there was another that happened that way and I know its not real but when I read them, they are real to me so its hard when they don’t get their ending too. I was told we should assume it was Cadler, which is sort of a bad boy but not the kind that needs redeeming. Throughout the series I went back and forth on this. So I hope there is an ending to see if she gets the bad boy or not!

  29. 29

    Kim - I agree! I’m a sucker for angst. I just love it.

    Amy - Thank you. :)

    Greta - I’m so happy to hear that you’re enjoying EVE OF DARKNESS!

    Fantasy Dreamer and Caffey - Thank you for looking forward to the series. I hope you love it. *g*

    Caffey - It’s so hard for both authors and readers when a series can’t be finished. :(

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